48 countries have ratified first ever legally binding treaty on biodiversity for food and agriculture
31 March 2004, Rome -- Twelve European countries and the European Community have ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, triggering the 90-day countdown to the Treaty's entry into force, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.
The latest ratifications bring to 48 the number of countries worldwide that have ratified the agreement, which will therefore enter into force on 29 June 2004.
The Treaty will ensure that plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, which are vital for human survival, are conserved and sustainably used and that benefits from their use are equitably and fairly distributed.
"This is a legally binding treaty that will be crucial for the sustainability of agriculture," said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf. "The Treaty is an important contribution to the achievement of the World Food Summit's major objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015".
"Years of multilateral negotiations under the auspices of FAO's Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have finally been successful," said José Esquinas-Alcázar, Secretary of the Commission.
"The Treaty provides an international legal framework that will be a key element in ensuring food security, now and in the future. The challenge is now to ensure that the treaty becomes operative in all countries."
TRIBUTE TO THE PAST AND GUARANTEE FOR PRESENT AND FUTURE
Most of the world's poor farmers depend on the use of genetic biodiversity for their income and living.
Experience and knowledge gained over many generations have made possible the development and conservation of thousands of agricultural crop varieties which otherwise would have been lost forever.
The Treaty recognizes and protects this legacy and develops the innovative principle of Farmers' Rights.
Despite the efforts of farmers, there has been a dramatic reduction of biodiversity. Since the beginning of agriculture, around 10,000 species have been used in food and fodder production. Today just 150 crops feed most human beings and just 12 crops provide 80% of food energy (wheat, rice, maize and potato alone provide 60%).
Some of the poorest countries are among the richest in terms of genetic diversity.
GENETIC RESOURCES AND FOOD SECURITY
Access to a wide range of genetic resources will make possible the development of a greater variety of food products, which will improve the lives and diets of consumers in both rural and urban areas.
The Treaty will institute, for the first time, a multilateral system of facilitated access and benefits-sharing for the crops and forages most important for food security.
Scientists, international research centres and plant breeders from public and private organizations will benefit from enhanced access to genetic biodiversity.
The multilateral system will also ensure the fair sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources, in particular for farmers in developing countries that have for centuries contributed to the conservation of genetic resources.
The system also provides for the obligatory sharing of monetary benefits arising from utilisation, including from commercialisation of new varieties by the private sector.
For more information, contact:
Nuria Felipe Soria, Information Officer, FAO
GOING FURTHER (compiled by GRAIN)
Intermediate Technology Group, "International Seed Treaty on major food crops to become law", Rugby, 31 March 2004.